Sat
Sep 24 2011 11:00am

On the Inherent Awesomeness of Diana Palmer’s Gossipy Infodumps

Long, Tall Texans: Calhoun, Justin, and Tyler by Diana PalmerUnless you’re an absolute stickler for chronology, you probably didn’t start Diana Palmer’s Long, Tall Texan series from the beginning. There’s just too many of them, and it isn’t absolutely necessary: She’s been publishing Jacobsville stories for decades, and the books aren’t bound tightly together with connected plots.

Instead, they’re glued together with something even better: Massive, gossipy infodumps.

Despite being, shall we say, a bit old-fashioned, there’s lots about these books that’s outright addictive: The pacing is good, the angst abundant, and the sex strangely compelling (probably because you don’t expect characters so wholesome to be so freaky).

Coltrain’s Proposal by Diana PalmerWhat shouldn’t be as appealing are Palmer’s seemingly irrelevant asides on characters from previous novels. Virtually every book includes at least one slightly stilted conversation between two characters (often the romantic leads) where they discuss the local goings-on. Here’s an example from Coltrain’s Proposal. One minute they’re discussing Copper’s romantic past, then Lou and the nurse Brenda switch gears to some other juicy tidbits:

“Wasn’t it surprising about Ted Regan and Coreen Tarleton, though?” Brenda added with a chuckle.

“Indeed it was,” Lou agreed, smiling as she remembered having Ted for a patient. “She was shaking all over when she got him to me with that gored arm. He was cool. Nothing shakes Ted. But Coreen was white as milk.”

“I thought they were already married,” Brenda groaned. “Well, I was new to the area and I didn’t know them. I do now,” she added, laughing. “I pass them at least once a week on their way to the obstetrician’s office. She’s due any day.”

Lou and Copper are especially well-positioned for details, since in these books someone’s always getting shot or suddenly conceiving or just plain fainting. But even better are the recaps into the ongoing struggle against a local drug outfit. An entire plot arc revolved around a cartel’s attempts to set up shop in Jacobsville, and because every other adult male works in law enforcement, several books included passages like this one from Lionhearted:

Marilee looked worried. “Harley Fowler told her he was bringing Janie.”

“Harley?” Leo scowled. Harley Fowler was a courageous young man who’d actually backed up the town’s infamous mercenaries—Eb Scott, Cy Parks, and Micah Steele—when they helped law enforcement face down a gang of drug dealers the year before.

This investigation has more leaks than the Lousitania. Someone at the Sheriff’s Department deserves to get fired.

Lionhearted by Diana PalmerThese passages are like getting cornered at the post office by the town gossip. Palmer can’t have you running around without the scoop! In almost any other series, this kind of inside baseball would be insufferable. But Palmer has been publishing Long, Tall Texan novels for decades, so there are dozens of couples whose fates fans are emotionally invested in. Every time someone is mentioned as pregnant, or having finally patched things up with their estranged husband, or overcome a rough patch, it’s thrilling for long-time readers.

What’s more, these out-of-context conversations are actually quite true to the way you’re introduced to any new community: You’re the third wheel in conversations about people you’ve never met, getting snippets about someone’s broken arm or tragic love affair. Details accrete, like who’s whose cousin, and who’s whose ex, and slowly you’re woven into the social fabric. These conversations make Jacobsville the Yoknapatawpha County of Romancelandia.

Sure, the place operates according to the slightly wacky physical laws of the soap opera universe, rather than reality. (No town holds that many cops, and there’s nowhere in modern American with that many virgins.) But despite the shifting geography and the sometimes unlikely characters and the extreme melodrama, Palmer’s fictional world feels inhabited, and gossip is the glue that holds it together.


 

By day, Kelly Faircloth covers innovation and technology. She spends the rest of her time reading and writing about books. Her work has appeared at io9, Inc and The Big Money, and she blogs intermittently at www.NoKindaLady.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyFaircloth.

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7 comments
Diane S.
1. Diane S.
I Love Diana Palmer books! She's one of the authors that I will re-read. And I agree with what you are saying; there are some oddities to her style (like those stilted, jumping conversations) but the stories are addictive.
Rakisha Kearns-White
2. BrooklynShoeBabe
I've only read one of her books, and I liked it. I didn't particularly care for the damaged virgin, but the gossip was entertaining. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it was like I was hanging out at the diner watching the hero and heroine with the same amount of tongue-clucking as the regulars.
Mary
3. MaryC
Diana is a lovely lady. I was fortunate to win a sweepstakes a few years ago which included a one hour phone converstion with her.
Tara B
4. box5angel
I love her books. And I know I've read a few of her Long, Tall Texan books I just can't remember the titles or what they were about but I know they were good. :) Haven't read a few in a long time though. Need to go to the used bookstore to see if I can find some. No specific titles and if I buy some and start reading and they start to sound familiar, I'll just keep reading. :) It wouldn't bother me one bit to re-read them.
Kelly Faircloth
5. KellyFaircloth
@BrooklynShoeBabe -- right? My mom does this thing where she'll call me, get the formalities out of the way, then ask, "Now, are you ready for this?" before dishing out some really amazing gossip. That's what these infodumps remind me of!

@MaryC -- she's always seemed like a genuinely lovely person to me. Glad to know that'st he case!
Diane S.
6. Nell
I am a huge fan of Diana Palmer's in fact I have just about every book she has ever written. I have read all of the "Long Tall Texans" in order but it was a few years ago. Now, I just read them as they come out. In fact I have been buying the older ones in ebook form so that they are on my reader. She is an auto buy for me. I just love her stories, and have been reading and rereading them for years and will for years to come.

And I agree with what a lot of you have said here, when reading her books you feel like you are right there watching it happen.
Diane S.
7. Manda28
Hello, i need help remembering the title of two books, i think they are both diana palmer's but all i can remember is a part of the book, not much to go on but HELP!!!!

1) the brother comes home to find that his sister is getting the main character to cook for a party they are throwing and gets made cause he feels like his sister is abusing the freind ship.

2) the main character gets a makeover and goes out to supper with a man freind / neighbour when she overhears her boss ( who she secretly loves) make fun of the way she looked before the makeover, she quits and later when she runs into him while riding a horse she runs away and falls off the horse and gets hurt.

i know not much but if anyone knows these books please let me know...going crazy trying to figure it out.
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